With Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew behind me for creative support, I began to research a handful of entries on the fascinating life of Hollywood publicist Michael Sands, who went out in an open-ended crescendo, when he choked to death on a piece of steak at Gelson’s Deli Market (A favorite hangout of his) in Century City. The particulars of this serendipitous accident, which occurred on March 24th at Gelson’s, came with difficulty in ascertaining a reasonable reconciliation, and pushed me in a direction of imminent vegan vegetarianism!
Another recent, unusual death of a Hollywood publicist, Ronni Chasen, was mentioned in passing in a The Wrap article I read. Ronni’s murder was apparently solved, but I still have my doubts. The incident at Gelson’s is even scarier than what happened to Ronni Chasen, as I see it. Michael’s choking on a piece of steak has been explained away by a condition Sands had, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. IE a narrow passage way in his throat, and down to his stomach.
The Heimlich maneuver was tried, but to no avail. While thought to be dead right there on the deli floor, Sands lingered on in a vegetative state for another 13 days at Cedars Sinai. Well, as hard as it is, let us put this horrible, freakish incident aside, and touch on a few of the highlights of Michael Sands’ career. Yet many of these highlights are still shrouded in mystery, such as how did he work as an undercover operative of the CIA, when helping to nab terrorist Abu Abbas in the 1985 highjacking of the Achille Lauro?
Did he promise Abu a book deal and lots of fame, fortune, or possibly free publicity? And what was Sands’ role in Richard Blackwell’s annual Ten Worst Dressed Women list, that seemed to garner more buzz than even The Academy Awards Red Carpet walk of the stars? Was it Sands who came up with the idea, or did he just help to promote Blackwell’s brainstorm of the Ten Worst Dressed Women list for the year? It wasn’t all that clear from what I read on the internet this morning.
I did note with a modicum of excitement that Sands had made guest appearances on two of my favorite old TV shows, Quincy and Charlie’s Angels. It would be nice if someone could indicate exactly which episodes of these classic shows he appeared in, so we could access these cameos. His home cheesecake business sounds interesting also. I remember well the NY cheesecake craze and fad of the early 1980s, and it looks like Sands cashed in on this craze with his business, C’est Cheesecake, which he poured his heart and soul into, and made successful with wide distribution, secured in many prominent stores.
As a publicist he represented many prominent stars and even represented plastic surgeons, defense attorneys, and Hollywood private investigators. I’d be interested to learn more about this PI angle. Why would a PI need a publicist anyway, unless they were trying to cop a TV series for themselves, and be the next Magnum PI or Barnaby Jones? Well, maybe it’s a fine line that divides these private dicks from the slimy world of Tinseltown glitz and glamour. Well, just take a look at Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe as an example of this double package of action and shine!
One would hope that Michael Sands’ unlucky demise won’t be his only ticket to fame. Nevertheless, as history has shown, the controversy surrounding one’s death is often the cornerstone of one’s claim to fame. We always remember, say, Cass Elliot’s undoing from choking on a ham sandwich. Unto today, I can’t manage a ham sandwich because of what happened to poor Mama Cass. And now with Michael Sands’ misfortune at Gelson’s, I think I’ll stick with fruit and vegetables (for lunch and dinner) for a good while, if not forever!